New movies to watch in December and January

Christmas movie alternatives include winter blockbusters, awards bait, a wrestling biopic with Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White, the Mean Girls musical, a retelling of the final days of Jesus starring LaKeith Stanfield and more.

For cinephiles, December and January represent a delicious opportunity to catch up on the last-push Oscar contenders, big family friendly blockbuster extravaganzas and more new movies opening in theatres. With musicals, fast cars, superhero films and some very serious movies on the docket, this winter has a little bit of everything.

The biggest films set to be released this month start with the hotly anticipated Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Dec. 22). As Marvel has seen a year of embarrassing flops, will Warner Brothers be able to step up one last time for the fledgling superhero genre? 

aquaman and the lost kingdom new movies december january
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (new movies to watch in December and January)

The two other December blockbuster films set for release are both family-oriented musicals. While the trailers have rubbed many people the wrong way, early previews of Wonka (Dec. 15) have received positive reviews. Directed by Paul King of the beloved Paddington films, and starring Timothée Chalamet, this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel is an origin story that leans into silly. 

December’s other major musical release is an adaptation of The Color Purple (Dec. 25) starring Fantasia Barrino in her first big screen role. The soundtrack featured songs by music stars such as Alicia Keys, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Megan Thee Stallion, Jennifer Hudson, Keyshia Cole, Jorja Smith and Missy Elliott, and film actors Halle Bailey, H.E.R. and Ciara.

Mean Girls (new movies to watch in December and January)

If you really can’t get enough of musicals, you’ll also be able to catch Mean Girls (Jan. 12), a film adaptation of the Broadway version of the beloved 2004 movie. Reneé Rapp, who played Regina George on Broadway (and starred in the popular TV series The Sex Lives of College Girls), will make her big-screen debut. Another early-year music film to keep on your radar is the concert doc Queen Rock Montreal (Jan. 18), which brings Queen’s iconic 1981 concert at the Forum to the big screen. 

Are you looking for something a little speedier? Michael Mann’s anticipated big screen return, Ferrari (Dec. 25), finally hits the screens in Montreal just in time for Christmas. Adam Driver stars in this biopic of automotive mogul Enzo Ferrari, whose family redefined the idea of the high-powered Italian sports car and practically spawned the concept of Formula One racing.

Poor Things Emma Stone Mark Ruffalo Yorgos Lanthimos
Poor Things (new movies to watch in December and January)

Fans of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) will finally be able to see his latest, an adaptation of a novel by Alasdair Gray. Emma Stone stars in the fantastical Poor Things (Dec. 15), the incredible tale about the fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter. 

Bradley Cooper returns behind (and in front of the camera) with Maestro (Dec. 8 in theatres, Dec. 20 on Netflix), a biopic about the life of composer Leonard Bernstein. Carey Mulligan, Maya Hawke and Matt Bomer co-star. Another star-heavy release this December is the adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s critically acclaimed novel Eileen (Dec. 8). Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway star in this crime thriller set in 1960s Massachusetts. It is about an unhappy secretary attracted by a new co-worker drawn into an outrageous and horrific criminal situation. 

The Boy and the Heron new movies December January
The Boy and the Heron (new movies to watch in December and January)

Buff it-boys of the moment Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White star in The Iron Claw (Dec. 22), a “based on a true story” film about the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. It might be one of the sleeper hits of the awards season. 

Two major releases from Japan include Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster (Dec. 8), a Rashomon-like story about a mother who demands answers from a teacher when her son begins acting strangely. Kore-eda’s films have won several prizes at Cannes and been nominated for Best Foreign Film. Hayao Miyazaki, who some consider the all-time greatest director of animated film, makes his final film (until he announces he’s come out of retirement again), the beautifully melancholic The Boy and the Heron (Dec. 8), about a young boy named Mahito who yearns for his mother and ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead.

All of Us Strangers (new movies to watch in December and January)

Two other films that were critically acclaimed on the festival circuit are also set for a winter release. Jonathan Glazer, best known for Under the Skin, is back after a long hiatus with The Zone of Interest (Dec. 22), a deeply troubling look at the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, who strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp. Though eligible for 2023 prizes, All of Us Strangers (Jan. 5) premieres in the new year. From the director of Weekend, the film stars Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott (aka the hot priest from Fleabag) in this fantasy romance about a screenwriter who’s drawn back to his childhood home and enters a fledgling relationship with a mysterious neighbour.

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney star in the upcoming rom-com Anyone but You (Dec. 15). After a fiery first date goes cold, the not-couple pretends to be together while at a destination wedding in Australia. 

The Book of Clarence new movies December January
The Book of Clarence (new movies to watch in December and January)

The likes of Kumail Nanjiani, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito and Elizabeth Banks lend their voices to Migration (Dec. 22), a family-friendly animated film about migrating ducks on a family road trip from New York to Jamaica.

There are some films to keep an eye open for in the new year: Night Swim (Jan. 5) stars Wyatt Russell in a family versus supernatural entity in the swimming horror-thriller; LaKeith Stanfield stars in The Book of Clarence (Jan. 12) an allegorical retelling of the final days of Christ, and a comedy adventure about a down-on-his-luck family man inspired by the rising Messiah; Jason Statham stars in David Ayer’s The Beekeeper (Jan. 12), an action-thriller about how one man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as “Beekeepers.” ■

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of Cult MTL. Please note that scheduled release dates are subject to change — check Montreal cinema showtimes here.

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